These presents will be welcomed by hosts who love to cook and entertain, not only at Christmas but all year round.
How guilty do we feel in January, stuffing bags full of unwanted Christmas presents friends and family generously sprung out for but fell short of our taste?
I’m all for buying for the home. You really can’t go wrong with practical, good-looking glassware, tableware, linens and cookware which are perpetually useful.
Whether you’re opting for big-spend items or stocking fillers, or looking to chuck a few items into a gift bag to take visiting, Claire Grennan, co-owner of the Irish Design Shop on Dublin’s Drury Street, has sustainable gifting ideas we might not have considered.
“Many brands claim to be more green than they are,” she says. “Retailers who promote their suppliers and where their products are made is a good start.
“There are apps that rate brands and retailers based on their green credentials. We always find this helpful if shopping from larger companies.”
Shopping locally is something we’re more aware of since lockdown, and the need to help small businesses keep afloat while reducing our carbon footprint by avoiding shipping, but according to Claire, shopping for locally made gifts is even better.
“The selection of high-quality homewares produced in Ireland is getting better year on year,” she says.
“We have such a strong craft tradition in this country with many producers making sustainability a priority in all aspects of their businesses.
“So many of our own suppliers are inspired by the beauty of the Irish landscape and have a deep pride in what they produce, so it’s little wonder they want to create an ethical, sustainable business.”
Being Dublin-based, Claire has access to some of the best charity shops around where she’s found some seriously good homeware items.
“You’ll often come across gems such as vintage ceramics from Irish studios such as Arklow Potteries,” she says. “Also, you can be very lucky and find vintage Waterford Crystal. I find charity shops great for small furniture items like lamps, stools and frames. I was lucky enough to come across two handmade súgán stools recently.”
She tells me she’s keeping one for herself and gifting the other to her business partner Laura.
Claire also advocates looking for products made from sustainable materials, citing Irish willow which is crafted into useful items like skibs, the traditional potato basket, and turf baskets. In the course of running the Irish Design Shop, she’s keen to source from producers who prioritise quality raw materials.
“Not only does this add to the quality of a product,” she says, “but it is also much better environmentally. If unsure, just ask in-store or online who made this, how was this made, where was it made?”
Stuck for stocking-filler and gift bag ideas? Claire suggests Irish wool socks and Irish-made beeswax or scented candles.
“When visiting, my fail-safe is a small Irish chopping board in sustainable hardwood, with a selection of Irish cheeses and my favourite Irish chutney.”
Meanwhile in Cork, interior designer Louise Keane has opened her Summer House Studio on Princes Street, packed full of home interiors goodies to inspire gifting.
She suggests focusing on the idea of togetherness and celebration when gift buying, something which has become more important than ever in recent times.
“A beautiful ceramic or wooden platter can be used as the centrepiece of a seasonal dining table and can then be used as a decorative piece all year round,” she says. “Or a generous, decorative bowl which can be used on a kitchen island filled with oranges studded with cloves or on a dining table to share food.”
For friends who love extra light, especially candles at Christmas, Louise likes a lantern or hurricane lamp “which can be used on a dining table,” she says, “or side table to bring flickering light to dark days, or even a version which can be used outside the front door to welcome guests to your home.”
At this time of year we don’t necessarily think of living gifts, but Louise says, “A seasonal plant or herb in a lovely plant pot or basket brings greenery indoors, while the pot or basket can get used again over time.”
For stocking fillers or a gift bag, she suggests a mini-votive in a delicious scent, or a mug with a recipe for a decadent hot chocolate with a good quality chocolate bar, and some scented soap or hand sanitiser for the times we’re living in.